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Voices stole across the darkness. The eaves of the house fell into silence.
"Wow. Look at that old building," Sally said.
"Yeah," Jennifer replied. "Pretty cool, isn't it?"
Their sneakers tapped along the quiet roadway. In the grass, the rabbit flattened, tensed, but chose not to run.
"How long has it been abandoned?"
"Oh, years and years. It’s always been half falling down. Once in a while someone boards it up, but kids just rip it open again."
"Look at the window on the second floor. I wonder why they kicked that one out."
"Who knows," Jennifer said.
The moon sparkled high overheard. It's light almost too pure to be real.
"Any idea what it was?"
"A boarding school for girls called 'Meadow Crossing.'"
"What a shame," Sally said. "I wonder why they shut it down."
The rabbit bolted back to where Nathaniel walked. It avoided the blackest shadows.
"I did hear a story, but I don't know if it's true," Jennifer said. "During one of the flu epidemics long ago, the area got hit hard, especially the school-aged kids. Many of the girls here got it, and they made the building a temporary hospital. The place was overflowing with people from all over. They even had tents up in the meadow. Mostly the boys, I guess. It was pretty bad. Most people who got it died."
"God, that's awful."
"Yeah. Just imagine. Dying so young. Never getting to experience so many wonderful things."
"Hey, speak for yourself."
Jennifer laughed. "Not everyone racks up dozens of steamy, teenage romances."
Sally slapped her arm.
"Hey! It's true!"
"Dozens? Give me a break! Anyway, someone had to show you biddies what to do."
Sally closed her eyes and breathed. A cloud wandered past the moon. "Oh, the memories. A night like this would've been magic. Can't I go back?"
"Nope," Jennifer said.
They drew even with the yawning windows. The glass and panes were gone.
"What's that doing there?"
Sally pointed to a huge shape parked in the shadow of the house.
"They're putting a housing development in here."
"I think so. The house. The trees. The meadows. They're going to rip it all up."
Sally's expression fell. "That's sucks," she said.
Jennifer's footsteps slowed.
"I don't think so."
"Why not?" Sally asked.
"This is going to sound crazy, but I don't think this is good. I don't think this house should've stood for so long. It feels like time froze, but decay didn't."
"Something's here. When the night settles in. Like something's waiting. You feel it?"
Sally reached out into the night.
"Sometimes it's better to move on," Jennifer said. "Especially in the wake of something so terrible. It's just better to move on."
Fear tickled up Sally's arms, and she turned away.
"Can we go?" she asked.
Jennifer stared, motionless.
Jennifer blinked, caught the look on Sally's face, then started off again.
A breeze disturbed the leaves as the voices trailed, then disappeared. The bent house overlooked the meadow, and the meadow did the same.
So close, the gigantic hulk of machinery slept. Metal and gears and gasoline. In the heat of the sun, it's bite would come, tearing the Earth, and chewing the wood to dust.
Yet, in the heavens, the stars smiled, patient as eternity. Nathaniel and Amanda dreamed the last of their troubled dreams.
Already they heard the music. Already oppressiveness lifted.
And the constellations sang a song to lead them.
Go back to Part 3